Skills and Career Development for Research Students

Undertaking a research degree is clearly about producing an excellent piece of research – but it is also about acquiring new skills.

Our skills and career development programmes and resources for research students are designed to give research students the skills they need to become an effective researcher and complete their degree together with transferable skills that will be of use both during their time here and in their career beyond. 

Researcher Development Framework

Research students are encouraged to use the Researcher Development Framework to support their personal development planning. The Researcher Development Framework sets out the knowledge, behaviours, and attributes that students are expected to demonstrate as a researcher.

Supervisors should ensure that the Researcher Development Framework is drawn to the attention of research students early on in the research degree programme. The Researcher Development Framework is designed for researchers at all levels and research students may find not all parts of it are relevant to them – but it will help them think about the full range of skills they will need to:

  • succeed in their research degree
  • achieve their longer-term personal and professional goals

In particular, supervisory team should encourage research student to use the Researcher Development Framework to support their personal development planning as they:

  • develop a training plan that meets their individual needs
  • keep a training record so they can monitor their progress
Training Needs Analysis

A training needs analysis is a self-assessment of current skills levels and knowledge.

A training needs analysis should be conducted right at the start of the research degree programme. This is normally something that the research student can do independently - but supervisors may want to draw the attention to any specific methodlogical or technical skills that the research student will need for their research project.

Research students can use the Doctoral College's training needs analysis template:

Training Objectives

Having completed a training needs analysis, research students can use the information obtained to then formulate some basic objectives for their skills and career development.

To be effective, their objectives should follow the SMART model - they should be:

  • Specific - Exactly what is it you want to achieve?
  • Measurable - How will you know you have achieved it?
  • Agreed - Does your supervisory team agree with your objectives?
  • Realistic - Can your objectives be achieved given the time and resource available to you?
  • Timed - When do you expect to have met each objective?

Again, this is something the research student should be able to prepare their objectives independently, but supervisors are encouraged to discuss and agree these with the research student.

It is suggested that to start with supervisors and research students agree objectives for the probation period; following completion of the probation review, objectives can be agreed for the remainder of the research degree programme.

Training Plan

Once the research student and supervisory team have agreed identified the training needs to be addressed, these can be matched against the development opportunities that are available in a training plan.

In the training plan the research student will need to set out:

  • what training they will need to undertake to fill the skills gaps identified in the training needs analysis


  • when they plan to undertake this training

The training plan is something the research student will need to discuss and agree with the supervisory team to ensure that it fits with the student's overall work plan and that any immediate training needs are addressed as soon as possible.

The initial training plan should cover the period up to the research student's probation review - following the probation review the research student and supervisory team can prepare and agree an updated plan to cover the remaining period of the research degree programme.

Research students can use the Doctoral College's training plan template:

At the heart of the plan should be the training provided by the research student's College:

However, to ensure the plan is sufficiently broad and supports the research student's ongoing personal and professional development, it should also make use of other training opportunities provided across the University:

Training Record

It is important that the research student keeps a running record of all the skills and development activities that they complete over their research degree. This includes participation in training events and workshops as well as:

  • use of online resources
  • attendance at conferences, seminars, etc.
  • self-directed learning

The research student will need to present a full training record in order to complete their probation review - but even beyond that, they should continue to keep their record up to date.

Research students can use the Doctoral College's training record template:

To record attendance at University training events, research students can also use Prose.

Review and Update Training Plan

Research students are strongly encouraged to review their training record and training plan from time to time and to revise these as needed.

We would therefore suggest that research students review their training record and training plan at key points in their research degree programme - for example, on completion of their probation review and as they enter the final year of their degree.

Supervisory teams are encouraged to be involved in this review process.

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